Boris Vaksman, an assistant fencing coach for St. Johns University in New York, has been fired by the school for racist comments he made during a virtual clinic, the New York Post reported. A video of Vaksman making the comments was shared on Instagram.
Vaksman, who is originally from Odessa, Ukraine, was a four-time Soviet Union Champion and four-time national Epee champion in fencing, according to the outlet. He had been an assistant coach with St. Johns University since 2006, coaching under Yury Gelman. From 2005 to 2009, Vaksman was the United States Fencing Association’s junior national team coach.
He also works at Fencers Club New York as a referee and coach, the New York Post reported.
In a statement to the outlet, St. John’s athletic director Mike Cragg said: “As soon as the recording was brought to our attention the matter was immediately investigated and the individual no longer works at the University. The racist comments expressed are completely unacceptable and a rejection of everything for which the University stands.”
In the video, Vaksman said, “Because the most trouble [is] coming from where? From black people. Because they don’t want to work, they steal, they kill, they [do] drugs, everything comes from them — the majority, the majority. I think, what’s his name, [Abraham] Lincoln made a mistake.”
The Video Was Shared by Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the First American Muslim to Wear a Hijab While Competing in the Olympics for the U.S.
The video of Vaksman’s comments during the virtual clinic was shared by Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympian and member of the United States fencing team. Muhammad is known as being the first American Muslim to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics. She earned a bronze medal in the Team Sabre event during the 2016 Summer Olympics.
She wrote, “This is what racism looks like in fencing, a small piece of a larger puzzle. This video is a reminder that coaches and teachers, those people entrusted with building us, educating us, and protecting us, too often perpetuate the discriminatory treatment and behaviors that normalize racism.”
Here is the video:
USA Fencing Issued a Statement on June 10 & Is Undergoing an Investigation
USA Fencing is the recognized national governing body for fencing in the United States. In a statement on its official website, USA Fencing said that it was conducting an investigation into “an audio recording of a fencing coach that included virulently racist comments targeting the Black community.”
USA Fencing said, “We are disgusted by these statements, which are racist, offensive and have no place in the USA Fencing community or in society as a whole.”
The body said that it stands with “black athletes and all underrepresented minorities within the fencing family.” USA Fencing never mentioned Vaksman by name in the statement.
The body wrote: “The USA Fencing is committed to improving upon diversity, equity and inclusion and creating a safe environment for all fencers. Racism and discrimination within the fencing community will not be tolerated and we encourage anyone to report these actions through the email address or telephone number above.”